We Ask Tourists and Locals: Is NYC Safe?

Whether you’re planning a trip for work or pleasure, or thinking about a change of scenery, you may be wondering, is NYC safe right now?

So, to the question of: Is New York a safe city right now? The short answer is a qualified yes! 

Let’s delve into the details, information and data on why we’re confident about this answer.

Considering 8,175,133 residents share 320 sq miles, NYC’s crime rate is impressively low.  According to FBI data, NYC is the safest big city in the U.S., ranking above San Jose and San Diego, California.

Steam venting in Manhattan with a taxi
Movies may give us the idea of a violent and dark city. Photo credit: Luke Stackpoole

Is NYC safe from what I see in movies and series?

Many people picture New York City as the urban jungle depicted in movies like “Midnight Cowboy,” or “Taxi Driver.”  While those films were shockingly realistic in their time, NYC has really cleaned up its act.

We must also remember that, even when we can somehow recognize many of New York’s famous streets and areas in films and TV series, most of that is fiction, even when the scenery is real.

Data shows that the city’s crime rate has dramatically decreased over the last three decades. On December 28, 2011, Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Kelly announced that near record levels for public safety were maintained in 2011.

“Despite tough fiscal times, New York’s frontline public safety agencies– the NYPD and the FDNY– continue to keep our city safer than at any time in recorded history,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

“Their successes are a major reason why our population is at a record high and growing, our life-expectancy has surged, and an all-time high of more than 50 million people will have visited our city during 2011.”

Is NYC safe? The NYPD works hard for it to be.
Is NYC safe? The NYPD works hard for it to be. Photo credit: Victor He

Is crime something common in NYC?

Violent crime is relatively rare in NYC (most crimes occur in economically-depressed areas of northern Manhattan or the boroughs. In many cases, the victim knew the perpetrator, or drugs were a factor).  Crimes against tourists are rare, and are usually theft (grab and run) or pick pocketing.

While the threat of terrorism is quite real, NYC Law Enforcement has an incredibly extensive and sophisticated counterterrorism program in place.  Since the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, every attempted (even plotted) attack has been uncovered and thwarted.  

In fact, a 2010 attempted car bombing in Times Square was identified and secured in a matter of minutes by vigilant citizens and the authorities.

We recommend that you stay vigilant about thieves and pickpockets. They can prove to be the greatest risk in your visit to any big city.

NYPD police officer with a dog keeping NYC safe
NYC Law Enforcement takes very seriously any possible threat to the city’s safety. Photo credit: Jusdevoyage

What are some tips I should follow to stay safe during my trip to NYC?

Is NYC safe? Yes, it is as safe as any big city can be, or even more. And, while crime is rare, anyone perceived as disoriented and with plenty of disposable income may prove an irresistible target for pickpockets and thieves. 

Hence why we believe that, in order to travel safely anywhere new, it’s important to follow certain principles.

Here are some general principles that can help you stay safe during your holidays:

  • Always remain in populous, well-lit areas.
  • Remain alert to your surroundings (this is a general rule for the city, where so many are rushing to their destination).
  • Never leave personal belongings unattended, and don’t display cash or valuable items (particularly jewelry or expensive electronics).
  • Be particularly alert in crowded situations.  Street performers can be very entertaining, but when you join a crowd to enjoy, be mindful of your valuables.
  • Don’t interact with anyone who appears mentally unstable or menacing.
  • Don’t leave valuables unsecured in hotel rooms.
  • Only use ATMs at reputable banks. When using ATMs outside, be very aware of surroundings and quickly put away cash.  Avoid using independent, non-bank ATMs (often found in delis or small stores). Your account information could be compromised.
  • During late nights, wait for subway trains in the designated “off-peak” area.  Be wary of riding in empty cars, and select the car with the conductor when possible. Read our subway 101 for more info on NYC public transport.
  • Don’t take anything from street vendors in your hand. An uncomfortably aggressive sales pitch may follow.
  • Never accept a ride from a taxi without a meter (unless fee has been prearranged).
  • Avoid buying tickets from anyone on the streets. They are often counterfeit.

In case of a genuine emergency, call 911. Depending on the circumstances, NYPD, FDNY, and/or EMTs will be dispatched immediately.

Walking around NYC in the night
Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings in crowded areas. Photo credit: Anubhav Saxena

How can I make sure to stay safe walking around NYC?

Is NYC safe right now? If you’re still wondering about that, you can review the detailed information on the New York City’s government website and judge for yourself. For an up-to-date look at NYC’s crime statistics, go here.

If you’d rather join a group and enjoy the company of others, check out the complete New York City tours we have to offer, both for sightseeing and discovering more about the city, and to feast on the tasty food that makes NYC a famous city. 

We’re certain you’ll see a lot of professionals ensuring that all areas you visit will remain completely safe at all times, and enjoy your visit!

Make sure to look around and be aware of your valuable belongings in crowded areas. If you need help, contact a police officer whenever possible. Read more tips about New York City in the official tourism information portal.

Is NYC safe? The New York Police Department takes care of the city.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) makes sure to keep NYC safe. Photo credit: Meriç Dağlı

Update Notice: This post was updated on January 10, 2024.

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About the author

Harry is a Seattle native turned New Yorker with 8 years of NYC living under his belt. As a connoisseur of all things delicious, artsy, and adventurous, he loves to share his wisdom for the best foodie spots, coffee shops, bagel joints, art galleries, shopping havens, and scenic bike routes in the city.

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